The turn of the century leading up to the 1920s was known as the “Dead Ball Era” of Major League Baseball. And using that logic, we can classify these times as the “Sleepy Ball Era.” Run scoring has been down, and pitching prowess has been up. With that said, the need for a strong rotation is as crucial as ever if teams want to make a World Series run.
The teams that feature stout starting pitchers tend to be the ones that thrive in the regular season—and also go deep into the postseason. Let’s take a look at how each squad stacks up at the present time.
30. Colorado Rockies
A quality hitting team can only go as far as its pitching staff—and the Rockies are going nowhere fast. Colorado is an easy choice to round out the bottom of this list. After all, it has the worst rotation earned run average (ERA) in baseball at 5.10, as well as having allowed the most home runs and most walks per nine innings.
— Joy Hamilton (@Joy_Hamilton) June 25, 2014
In fact, three starters posses ERAs that are north of 4.70, including expected ace Jorge de la Rosa. That won’t lead to many victories—no matter how well the hitters perform.
29. Minnesota Twins
The team with the worst ERA in 2013 is maintaining that level of futility in 2014. Even though Phil Hughes has been more than serviceable (8-3 record, 10 quality starts), it’s a severe drop-off from there.
Ricky Nolasco has been a great disappointment since coming over from Los Angeles. In his 15 starts this season, the right-hander has allowed 55 earned runs and 15 homers (just two short of last year’s total). His last month has shown some signs that he may be turning the corner, but that will not be enough to carry this group out of it misery.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks
While depth in a rotation is important, the first step is to have a reliable ace. The Diamondbacks are lacking in both areas. Bronson Arroyo had a nice go of it in April and May, but his time has passed.
Wade Miley has nearly reached the century mark in terms of strikeouts this season. His walk total, though, is also far too high. The top starter at this point in the year is Josh Collmenter, who has five wins since May 18.
But when you allow nearly four runs a game on a staff that has a rotation ERA of 4.81, the term “ace” doesn’t hold much water in the desert.
27. Cleveland Indians
Terry Francona has had to shuffle around his staff, from changing closers to getting work out of spot starters.
He thought he could count on Justin Masterson. And, after seeing a 14-win campaign in 2013 that resulted in an All Star appearance, there was no reason to question him. Now, there are questions all abound—especially about his control. In 17 starts, Masterson has a 5.03 ERA, 50 walks and has hit 10 batters.
Only Corey Kluber has maintained his edge. The unquestioned ace of this year’s rotation, Kluber leads the Tribe with seven victories, a 3.09 ERA and an impressive 122 strikeouts.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates
The magic of last season’s playoff run was aided by contributions from many players—starting pitchers included. One of those key pieces was A.J. Burnett, who has since departed Pittsburgh and has proven to be a tough void to fill.
Add in the struggles of Francisco Liriano (1-6, 4.35 ERA) both to stay healthy and to maintain a formerly high level, and you have a recipe for a club that is more scuffling than thriving.
Charlie Morton was living a nightmare to start this season. He opened 2014 by going 0-6. Although he managed to get rid of the goose egg on May 23, he is just 4-9 and an epitome of a Pirates staff that had a 4.16 rotation ERA (13th in the NL) heading into play on Thursday.
A rare bright spot has been Gerrit Cole, who continues to show why he’s an ace in the making.
25. Chicago White Sox
With all the talk of Jose Abreu’s outstanding rookie season, not enough focus has been given to those on the mound. And, quite frankly, it needs some help.
That’s especially the case when it comes to No. 3-5 in the rotation. John Danks, Erik Johnson, Felipe Paulino and Scott Carroll have all took turns at being the solution. None have really worked out that well.
Thus, there is a disparity between two fine lefties—Chris Sale and Jose Quintana—and the rest of the staff. Sale, who has been injured for part of the year, has not missed a beat. In 11 starts, he’s 6-1 with an ERA of 2.27 and has fanned 78 batters. Quintana’s ERA is at 3.68, but tough luck has his record at 4-7.
24. Texas Rangers
Imagine if Yu Darvish wasn’t part of this rotation. It wouldn’t be pretty.
Even with the mastery of his seven wins and a 2.62 ERA, the Rangers have the second-worst starting rotation ERAs in the AL (4.69) and allow 3.57 walks per nine innings—the most in all of baseball.
Where does Ron Washington turn to when it’s not Darvish’s turn to take the mound? Whoever he’s gone to has not worked, whether it’s Colby Lewis and his whopping 5.94 ERA and 1.82 WHIP, Joe Saunders (0-4 in seven starts), or Nick Martinez (1-5).
23. Boston Red Sox
The backbone of Boston’s 2013 World Series title has ruptured in 2014. With a 4.18 rotation ERA, the Sox rank 24th in the league.
Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront have yet to be reliable. Buchholz is having great difficulty with his command. His failure in locating his pitches has resulted in poor showings against Baltimore on April 21, Texas on May 9 and Atlanta on May 26. Doubront will have to fix his shortcomings via the bullpen, as manager John Ferrell reassigned him last week.
Jon Lester and John Lackey can still be counted on. Each has eight wins and a fair number of strikeouts. That said, this rotation is not at the quality level it showed last season. Too bad they haven’t received much in the way of run support, either.
22. Baltimore Orioles
These past two seasons have seen the Orioles become playoff contenders in the AL East due to power bats and slick fielding. Their pitching has always seemed to be the deterrent in their progress.
The off-season signing of Nelson Cruz was phenomenal. Not so much for Ubaldo Jimenez. The former Rockie and Indian (winner of 13 games in 2013) has just two so far this year—and last garnered a ‘W’ on May 8 versus Tampa Bay.
— Rich Dubroff (@RichDubroffCSN) June 21, 2014
Bud Norris, Wei-Yin Chen, and Chris Tillman all have been serviceable, though collectively not yet strong enough to merit threats for the pennant.
21. Philadelphia Phillies
Cole Hamels’ vintage form has been rediscovered, and he’s having a great June. After flailing through the month of May, Hamels has gone on to surrender just three earned runs in 37 innings in June. Yet somehow, his record is just 2-4. Chalk it up to bad luck.
Fellow lefty Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett have been serviceable—with Lee having just nine walks over 68 frames. Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez aren’t enjoying tremendous success, combining for a 6-13 record this year. Beyond this group of four is a complete unknown, meaning the demand to stay healthy is imperative.